How to Write an Ethical Will

Imagine being able to leave behind something more intangible than material items, but with immeasurable value for those who inherit it? Enter: the Ethical Will.
How to Write an Ethical Will

Let’s begin by clarifying that an Ethical Will is notlegal Will. It’s more of a personal document used to communicate your values, experiences and life lessons to loved ones, to be included as part of your estate plan. So, while it doesn’t contain instructions for the transfer of assets and property, it can pass on powerful guiding principles, memories, spiritual values and wishes for your family’s future.

What makes a Will… Ethical?

Ethical Wills – while sounding like a modern age concoction – are not a new concept. They have long given their creators the opportunity to offer a sense of honour, promise and legacy to those left behind. We’re talking as far back as three thousand years ago(!), with references to Ethical Wills found in various ancient religious texts.

Perhaps more meaningful than anything of monetary value, an ethical Will is a gift of wisdom. It’s an expression of your family’s stories, life philosophy and goals. It can share your values, achievements, blessings, life lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love and forgiveness with your family, friends and community. Essentially, all things rooted in ethics and molded by moral principle. 

What form does an Ethical Will take?

There’s no prescribed structure for an ethical Will, but it may resemble a written letter, informal note or diary, depending on how you might wish to bring your scripture to life. It may even be assembled as a scrapbook or collage, video or audio recording, digital presentation, or constructed as a poem or song. The possibilities are endless! 

The Ethical Will is generally written in a personal tone and voice and typically refers to your own biography or memories from your life. It can be enhanced with a number of direct, personal messages to readers about hopes for the future, or just getting things out in the open. Feel free to weave in guidance, help or even directives that you think bear repeating.

Use the Ethical Will as a tool to explain actions in life, why financial decisions were made the way they were and share any stories behind the assets distributed in your legal Will. It’s really up to the author as to the final form of the purpose-driven piece. After all, these words may long outlast any property or wealth that gets shared once you’re gone.

Getting started on your Ethical Will

If you’re into journalling, the task of writing an Ethical Will is probably right up your alley. If not, just remember that the final document should be personal and specific to your own life, situation and interests that you care about communicating. A few prompting categories may help you put pen to paper:

Personal History

Think of the basics: Who are you? How did you get there? What did you learn along the way?

Favourite Things

Colour? Car? Food? Spot to watch the sunset with a person you care about?

Academic and Professional Life

Some things can’t be learned in books or through exposure to a corporate environment. What’s something you wish you knew right at the start? What could you have done better?

Most Meaningful Experience

What was that one pivotal moment you look back on often? How did it shape you? It can be pleasant or otherwise!

Religious and Political Views

What did devotion teach you? Express your religious and political beliefs and views, and why you hold them strongly.

Hopes for the Future

Give the kids some good advice. What’s one thing their generation needs to know or do?

An alternative approach to writing an Ethical Will

If you had a bigger-picture approach in mind, there are a few exercises that may help you frame your thinking around what to include:

  • Reflect on courageous choices you have made over a lifetime
  • Reflect on how you prioritise your life
  • Focus on creating memories for your family
  • Explore inspiring storytelling that immortalises significant events or people from your time on Earth

Wrap up

The task of writing an ethical Will can feel overwhelming when you consider the expansive wisdom and vulnerability that it holds the power to share. Despite the gravity of it all, don’t forget to have a bit of fun getting all your great revelations jotted down. And while you’re at it, take some time to write your legally-binding Will online in just 15 minutes with Willed.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, medical, accounting or tax advice.

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